Wednesday, June 2, 2010

When nature becomes the enemy


It's turning into a tough spring here at SSF. We have practically wrestled our majestic national symbol into letting go of a half-eaten - and still alive - hen, been on high alert for a couple of neighborhood dogs that enjoy prowling the area, and once again find ourselves facing at least one raccoon that's missed the memo on his or her nocturnal-ness.

The last two weeks, we've become the cafe du jour of a local bald eagle and his mate. I would be lying if I didn't admit that they are indeed majestic close up - but their sheer size on close inspection - especially when you're fighting over a living part of your farm - is daunting and, frankly, infuriating. These birds are mammoth and completely unafraid. Bald eagles are actually supposed to be "opportunistic eaters" - AKA scavengers, only hunting when necessary. But a free-range chicken farm a mere 500 yards from the nest is too convenient to ignore, I guess.

So, a week spent readying a nice spacious area, complete with 8-foot fence and a couple of swaths of bird netting overhead to deter predatory avian swooping, and we were feeling a little better yesterday - even if we could count at least 6 missing hens lost to who knows what these past couple weeks.

And then today, washing vegetables at the kitchen sink, what do I see but of course a raccoon, taking advantage of the contained birds and somehow finding a weakness in our fencing.

This is now the 4th or 5th time in just the last few days I've been and acutely felt my helplessless in the face of a predator just doing its job at the expense of our farm. It's too much.

I never thought I'd find myself - a lifelong advocate of gun control and a sworn non-gun-owner, feeling I have little choice but to give up what I do or buy some kind of gun. In my own defense, I have always believed that guns have a place - just not a place where there are kids (which includes my farm) or close proximities, like urban areas. One visit to Montana and I knew immediately I would never live there without a firearm at the ready. In that wild state, full-scale predators can literally - and do - show up on your doorstep.

So, I guess in some small way, I'm experiencing Montana on a micro scale. But the reality is, I have animals I'm responsible for, animals I've placed in a certain environment - and to ignore their safety is irresponsible not to mention horrific.

So, pellet gun, .22, or??? Ugh. Would that I ever thought I'd be facing this dilemma. But, it has to be done. I can't stand the prospect of continually looking up - as I have so many times this past month - to see a killer in my midst and have no way to protect those in my charge. Mark has gallently rushed out with bow and arrow, but that's a one-shot-deal at best. It's not the answer.

And, no. I won't be shooting any bald eagles. My plan is just to put my girls away where the eagle can't get to them, then deal with the raccoon - a cute cartoon character to city kids, but a true villain out here - more aggressively.

The less bloodshed the better. But my poor girls deserve to be safe in their own house.

The less fun side of farming.

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